The Best Teach Grant Guide: Everything You Need to Know!
The TEACH Grant is another type of grant that provides funds to students. Much like the other types of Federal Grants that we discussed thus far (Federal Pell Grant and FSEOG) this also does not need to get repaid however, there is some grey areas with the TEACH Grant. Is it not so “black and white.” There are rules and if the rules are not followed it can lead to some not so ideal financial situations. So sit back, and let’s review all the in’s, out’s, and nuances about the TEACH Grant.
What is the TEACH Grant?
So what exactly is the TEACH Grant? The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant offers grants to students who are going to be completing (or plan to) course work that is essential to begin a career in teaching. It’s different from the other discussed grants as you are required to take certain types of classes in order to receive the grant. Then after you will need to be employed with a certain type of job to keep the grant from turning into a gulp……loan!!! (Much more on this later)
Some conditions for receiving the TEACH Grant is to:
- Teach in a high-need field
- Confirm that the school services students from low-income families
- Be a full-time teacher for a total of four academic years within either years after you complete your course requirements
What Makes Teach Grants Unique?
Well for starters, the rules make the TEACH Grants unique. The other grants are almost have a “set it and forget it” method where after you complete the FAFSA and deemed eligible then the funds are applied to your account. It’s much different with the TEACH Grants. Not only is the financial assistance provide prior to the accruing of debt but there is a specific end goal in mind and it must be met. In addition, there are also certain areas that you must pursue along with schools that participate in the program. It’s a lot of work but considering you are getting rewarded for areas that are of critical shortage than it makes sense. The intent here is to make sure that these individuals are in it for the long haul and not just wanting to become a teacher because they like the idea of having summers off.
How much can you get with a TEACH Grant?
With all these rules and terms of service, let’s see how much you can get if you were to be awarded the TEACH Grant.
For student’s pursing a teaching career the Teach Grant program provides up to $4,000 in grants. However, there is some fine print that we need to be aware of.
- Per the Budget Control Act of 2011, if a TEACH grant is first disbursed on (or after) October 1st, 2018 and before October 1st, 2019 then it must be reduced by 6.2 percent from the amount awarded.
- Any Teach Grant that is first paid out on (or after) October 1st, 2019 and before October 1st, 2020 must be reduced by 5.9 percent from the award amount.
So what does this mean for the total amount that you can get?
- If on (or after) October 1st, and before October 1st, 2019 – Maximum award is $4,000 – 6.2% ($284) = award of $3,752
- If on (or after) October 1st, 2019 and before October 1st, 2020 – Maximum award is $4,000 – 5.9% ($236) = award of $3,764
What’s considered a High-Need Field?
The Federal Government (no surprise there) has determined that the following areas are “high-need” fields in lower income areas. This is based on the number of students who require services compared to the number of teachers. Basically it’s your critical shortage areas.
Those areas are:
- Bilingual Education and English Language Acquisition
- Foreign Language
- Reading Specialist
- Special Education
- Other Identified Teacher Shortage Areas (not geographic areas) as of the time recipients receive the grant or as of the time they begin teaching in that field. The “other identified teacher shortage areas” are listed in this publication.
What is a High Need Field (Pros and Cons)
The key here is if you plan to teach in these high need areas, the field must listed for the state that you are wanting to teach in (remember each state is different). After schooling you must teach in a low-income school and need to teach for at least four complete academic years within eight years of having completed at an approved school. Again, it’s a commitment. Let’s explore some pros and cons to the high need fields.
- Opportunity to make a huge impact
- Loan forgiveness
- Large class sizes
- Shorthanded staffs
- Lack of resources
- Over-stressed employees and students
Identifying the Schools
You like what you are reading so far and you want to research more on what schools meet the criteria for high need fields. Elementary and secondary schools at both the public and private level along with educational services are listed in an annual directory known as the Teacher Cancellation Low-Income Directory. You can perform a search to see the current and past year’s directory here: Directory Search and research the state contact information here: State Contact Information.
What’s interesting to note is that elementary and secondary schools that are operated by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) or operations by Indian tribal groups may qualify as a low-income school.
TEACH Grant Eligibility
With all this talk about it and all the rules what actually makes one eligible for the Teach Grant? Another list for you to digest but trust me with each one you are reading, they are getting more and more important.
To be eligible you must:
- Be qualified by meeting the criteria for federal student aid programs.
- Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form (FAFSA).
- You’re enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program (post baccalaureate can apply)
- Must identify a school that participates in the TEACH Grant Program
- Receive TEACH Grant Counseling. This will explain your terms and conditions of the Teach Grant service obligation. Counseling will need to be completed each year.
- Sign a TEACH Grant Agreement to Serve
Teach Grant Academic Requirements
Of course there is going to be some academic requirements right? Some standards need to be establish for this path you will embark on. There aren’t many requirements, but here they are:
- Be in the 75th percentile on one or more portions of the college admissions test and maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 3.25. For more information on this it’s best to contact your school’s financial aid office.
Application Process for Teach Grant
We are the point where you know inside of your hear that this is what you want to do. The passion is strong and you are okay with the sacrifices that will need to be made. Now, let’s review the steps and see how you can start this process.
Step 1: Financial Aid Office
After your decision is made, it’s highly suggested to visit your schools financial aid office. The point of this visit is to verify that they participate in the TEACH Grant Program. As stated before, not all schools offer this service. It may be beneficial to have a backup school in mind just in case.
Step 2: FAFSA Completion
Okay so school identified and confirm and now onto the completion of the FAFSA. You can do that by clicking on FAFSA just a few words back. Remember you will need access to the Federal Student Aid PIN which you will create by visiting the Federal Student Aid Pin site.
Step 3: Agreement to Serve (ATS)
This one is a big and important student in the process. To receive the TEACH Grant, you need to have completed the TEACH Grant Initial and Subsequent Counseling and then complete the Agreement to Serve (ATS).
What the counseling does is get you familiar with the overall aspects of the Teach Grant program and the service obligation that comes with it. Think about it as an information session about what you will be doing. This process will need to be completed each year that you receive the Federal Teach Grant.
The counseling covers general information such as the ATS, the grant service obligation, and what happens if you fail to complete the service obligation. To complete the counseling you can go to here. A quiz will then follow so you make sure that you completely understand the requirements of the process.
This will alleviate those to say that “had no idea” that this could happen etc. Overall the process can take anywhere between 35-45 minutes.
Step 4: TEACH Grant Agreement to Service (ATS) Paperwork
Now comes the time for the agreement to service paperwork to be completed. It’s a simple, single document and it officially requests the TEACH Grant and legally enrolls you in the program.
What is the TEACH Grant Agreement to Serve (ATS)?
So what are the conditions and the agreement to serve? Because to me that’s an automatic red light and something that I would personally want more information on as a parent and as a college student.
The agreement to service is a contact basically that must be signed in order to get the funding. With every year that the TEACH Grant fund is received, you must complete this.
So this agreement to serve will state that you have to teach:
- In a high-need field (bilingual education, foreign language, mathematics, reading specialists, science, and special education).
- At an elementary school, secondary school, or educational service agency (TEACH For America for example) that serves students from low income families.
- Teach for at least 4 complete academic years within either years after completing your course of study.
Once the agreement has been signed, you want to remember that you will have to live up to the conditions. Again failure to do so will convert this (and I hate to say this) to a loan!!!!
So I think the following should be in BOLD on this website site and I scratch my head as to why it’s not as the level of importance:
So verbatim it says “If you do not meet the requirements of your service obligation, all TEACH Grants you receive will be converted to Direct Unsubsidized Loan. You must repay these loans in full, with interest charged from the date of each TEACH Grant disbursement.
This is a main concern for many who are even remotely interested in this is if you will truly be able to complete all the requirements. If any doubt it in your mind, then you may want to rethink this. I am torn about if this is too harsh or not. In the episode of the Tuition Drop Podcast on the TEACH Grant I say it is harsh because I can only imagine what it’s like to be a student, then something changing causing a shift in paths. Next you think you know…BAM your hit with a loan! However, I guess the flipside is that you were funded and giving money based on something you agreed to. So I can see that side of things as well.
If the TEACH Grant were to be converted to a loan, then you must repay these in full with interest charged from the date of each TEACH Grant Disbursement. If you are back and forth about this of course you do not have to go the route at all. You can just take our regular Federal Loans. That option doesn’t give you funding but it is an option.
TEACH GRANT Service Obligation Suspension
So is a cancellation of the service obligation even possible? Actually….yes! You can request a temporary suspension of the eight-year period for completing your TEACH Grant service obligation.
The following situations may be considered for the temporary of your service obligation:
- If you enroll in another Teach Grant eligible program after you have begun your service obligation then you can request a delay.
- If a condition requires you to take a leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act then you can request a temporary halt in your eight year eligibility deadline.
- If you are in active duty status for more than 30 days and receive a call to order as a member of the armed forces reserves or being a full-time duty as a National Guard then you can look into a suspension.
These suspensions are granted in one-year increments and they are not to exceed a total of three years for the first two conditions listed above or a total of three years for the third condition.
If you are able to receive a suspension, the eight-year period for completing your service obligation is put “on hold” during the suspension period. An example is if you receive a one-year suspension after two years of the eight-year period then you would have six years left to complete the service obligation as soon as that postponement period ends.
Now if one were to pass way or become permanently disable then the Teach Grant service obligation may be cancelled. A call or order for military active duty for a period that exceeds three years can able to grounds for a discharge.
Multiple TEACH Grants
possible. This may open up a can of worms and therefore you would be considered for two Teach Grant service obligations.
The benefit is that even though that aforementioned can of worms opened, you will be able to double-count your teaching after graduation. So you would only have to teach for a total of four years to satisfy the requirements of both of the TEACH grant service obligations.
This is an interesting strategy so keep it in your back pocket just in case.
TEACH Grant Annual Certification
Another key component in this is this the Annual Certification. Now recently the U.S. Department of Education has made a standardized annual certification date for all the recipients of the TEACH Grant. This is to simplify the annual certification by having only one date. That date is October 31st!
At the beginning of October, the TEACH Grant servicer, FedLoan Servicing will notify you to let you know how to submit proper documentation of progress towards you TEACH Grant service obligations or certification of intent.
Please note that if you do not submit the documentation by October 31st, and do not respond to the communication then you grants will be converted to Direct Unsubsidized Loans.
Next steps if Interested in The TEACH Grant
So what do you do next?
The best advice I can give is to truly look inside yourself and make sure this is what you want to do. It’s a commitment. Not only all the pre-work involved but you also have to submit an annual certification to continue to be eligible.
- Do your homework
- Compared what we will borrow vs the return on investment for your degree (This is a big one)
- Per the BLS Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers are slated to grow about 7% which is about fast as average for ALL occupations!!!
Tuition Drop Podcast
You can check out our episode of the Tuition Drop Podcast on TEACH Grants below!